Small business inspiration: Inklings Paperie

party-small-businessAt GoForth, we know that being creative and open to new ways of thinking can be a great source of small business inspiration. That’s why we love the story of Inklings Paperie, an American company based out of Michigan that creates customizable scratch-off greeting cards, telegrams, and lunchbox notes, as well as other paper goods.

Inklings owner Lindsay Henry has a background in corporate design. After friends began to ask her to design bridal and baby shower cards and games for them, she realized that there wasn’t much new and exciting going on in that space. According to her website, “I learned that 27% of bridesmaids consider shower-planning their least favorite part of being a bridesmaid, and that only 7% consider it one of their favorite parts.”

In an interview with WXYZ Detroit, Henry describes her a-ha moment, after creating scratch-off cards and games for a baby shower:

“People loved them, they were responding well to them, asking if we had different designs and I thought, wow, there’s really an opportunity for a beautifully made whimsical games and cards that people were looking for, that were different and unique.”

Henry opened her Etsy shop in 2010, and her home-based business has grown to include full-time staff. Inklings products are sold in stores across the US and around the world, and have even been featured in celebrity swag bags at the 2012 Emmy Awards!

Approximately 60% of new business ideas come from our own work experience, and the story of Inklings Paperie is a great example of an entrepreneur using her creativity and professional background as a jumping-off point for success in entrepreneurship.

You can watch a video interview with James and get a behind-the-scenes look at this unique small business on WXYZ’s website.

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Small business blog posts we liked this week

We hope you enjoy these four inspiring small business blog posts and articles we read and liked recently! Did you read something you wanted to share? Let us know in the comments!

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Small business blog posts we liked this week

Here are some of the small business blog posts we found and enjoyed this week. Pour a cup of coffee and enjoy!

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Entrepreneurial Inspiration – Mark Cuban, from tech to sports

Do you think you need to be an athlete yourself to run a successful sports business? You don’t. Take Mark Cuban, for example.

In the early 1980s, Cuban was one of the top salespeople at Your Business Software, one of the first PC software retailers in Dallas, Texas. He held that job for under a year, until he was fired when he met with a client to finalize a large software purchase and couldn’t open the store.

Many of us would be knocked back by an incident like that. However, Cuban used his knowledge and foresight to start his own company – MicroSolutions. It was an early seller of programs many of us know today (or, at least, knew in the past) like CompuServe and Lotus Notes. Despite his almost total lack of an IT or computers background, Cuban was able to stay one step ahead of the game in that industry, testing every new innovation that came his way. His company was an expert in local area networks at a time when computer printers were just becoming popular. In 1990, Cuban sold MicroSolutions to CompuServe for $6 million.

Five years later, inspiration struck again, and he merged his tech company experience with his love of sports. He cofounded AudioNet, a website that allowed sports fans to listen to their home teams’ games – no matter where they were. This company became Broadcast.com, which was sold to Yahoo with almost $100 million in revenue and 350 staff members.

In 2000, Cuban’s next business move was further inspired by his love of sports – he bought his hometown basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks. He combined his knowledge of basketball with his business knowledge and revitalized his team. Aside from recruiting more talented players, he refocused the team’s marketing efforts with new uniforms and new advertising strategies. He has even been known to sit with other fans in the audience, wearing a team jersey. By repackaging a Mavericks game as a total entertainment experience, Cuban brought the team to heights of popularity they hadn’t seen in years – with both fans and players.

With his actions in previous business ventures and as the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban has truly been a creative destructor. Though no stranger to the odd controversy, he’s approached each business venture with creativity, forward thinking and true passion. Not all sports fans can own a basketball team, but sports-related entrepreneurship is definitely a viable option, even if your background would make it seem otherwise!

 

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Entrepreneurial inspiration – Martha Stewart’s lifestyle empire

It’s a Martha Stewart world. No matter whether you bake, cook, throw parties or decorate, you can’t deny Stewart’s influence. She’s been called everything from “America’s most famous homemaker” to the third most powerful woman in America. But despite her immense fame, her story still has important lessons for small business owners.

Stewart’s knack for all things creative isn’t just for show. Like many entrepreneurs, her inspiration emerged in childhood. Born and raised in New Jersey, she was one of six children. Her whole family took part in pursuits of the home. Her mother taught her cooking and sewing, her father taught her gardening, and her grandparents taught her canning and preserving techniques. She was also part of her school’s newspaper and art club.

In 1961, Stewart got married and, a few years later, graduated from Barnard College with degrees in History and Architectural History. Out in the working world, she was a stockbroker for nearly 10 years, but decided to focus on her family and restoring their new home. This home, a farmhouse built in 1805, was a massive renovation that Stewart and her husband performed entirely by themselves – yet another hint at the future.

After the renovation, Stewart started her own catering business, where she quickly became noted for her creative recipes and unique presentation. Her reputation caught the attention of Alan Mirken, head of Crown Publishing Group, who asked her to create a cookbook based on her recipes and parties she had catered. This book, published in 1982, was called Entertaining, and it became a New York Times bestseller – in fact, the most popular cookbook at the time since Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Several more cookbooks followed, as well as newspaper columns and articles on creative and innovative homemaking ideas.

In 1990, the magazine Martha Stewart Living was created. Two years later, the Martha Stewart Living TV program was launched. And, with that, the Martha Stewart ethos began to pervade our society.

However, Stewart’s true legacy isn’t limited to cupcakes and curtains. She is also a shrewd businesswoman. She created the company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in an effort to organize all of her various brands under one name. This way, she can have greater control over her business’ direction and operations – very important considerations for businesses operating under a real person’s name. She controls nearly 100% of her company’s voting shares and, at the time of writing, her net worth is estimated at $638 million.

Stewart’s creative vision lends itself to many things from furniture, houseware, baking, gardening and even wine. She manages to undertake several different ventures which unite under the principles of accessible creativity and “good things” for any home. It is this all-encompassing inspiration and forward-thinking vision that led New York Magazine to christen Martha Stewart “the definitive American woman of our time.”

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